COLUMBIA — Granola bars, ibuprofen and a boom box: A random assortment of things, but to the players on the Hickman girls soccer team, they are building blocks that have brought them together this season.
The Kewpies, a young team with only six upperclassmen, are having a rough season with a 7-12-1 record going into district play Tuesday. However, a disappointing season has not stopped the team from coming together and having fun.
“Our team has bonded really well this year,” sophomore defender Erika Storvick said. “It’s the best team I have ever been on.”
It all started earlier in the season one day after practice in the locker room. Some of the girls on the team were talking about how hungry they were. It was then that the team came up with an idea to both feed their appetites and build team unity.
The team decided to take turns bringing snacks every day and planned to keep them in an empty locker. However, what started out as a snack pantry was soon turned into a utility locker, where the girls could go and get all of the essentials necessary for a soccer player.
On a regular basis, the locker now holds a variety of snacks, water bottles, hair ties, headbands and ibuprofen. Storvick said that the locker has new supplies in it practically every day. Soon the girls changed its name from the utility locker to the soccer locker.
“It (utility locker) sounded too professional,” Storvick joked.
And, of course, what locker room would be complete without a boom box to make the whole room shake.
“It blares the whole locker room,” Storvick and junior midfielder Ana Wilden said in unison.
Kewpies coach Tony Gragnani said the attention to the locker room can only mean good things.
“It made me really happy that they have an environment that is theirs,” Gragnani said. “They can all go to it together as a team, and it is something for them to build around.”
Team unity is something that Gragnani stressed at the beginning of the season.
“With this being such a young team, with only two seniors, we decided that this would be a good time to really establish a culture and build on that,” Gragnani said.
So before the season started, Gragnani brought in all the returning juniors and seniors to come up with ideas for building a strong team. What resulted was a list of 10 rules the team would live by. The girls even decided that it would be a requirement to memorize them.
Storvick and Wilden recited the list without pause:
- “Team greater than you."
- "Embrace your role."
- "Take ownership."
- "Fitness touch tactics."
- "No complaining, just do it."
- "If you don’t want to be here, don’t come."
- "Don’t be a girl."
- "Know all the rules.”
In case anybody forgets them, the list hangs on the bulletin board in the locker room, right next to the boom box.
Gragnani said the not being a girl rule (No. 8) refers to a healthy team culture. In previous seasons, cliques among teammates have hurt the Kewpies, on and off the field.
This season has been different, though, and Gragnani said the players quickly bought into the rules, and that cliques are no longer a problem.
"One of the things that I always observe whenever we warm up, I always see who they partner up with or who they are talking to," Gragnani said. "It's funny to me because they all switch and they all intermingle."
This season's Kewpies have come to know that when they step on the soccer field, they have to put the team above friends.
"Of course we have our friends outside of soccer," Storvick said. "But whenever we come to play soccer, it is one team all together."
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